Wednesday, 23 May 2012

To Be an Introvert

You couldn't tell, but I'm an introvert. It is common to think that introverts are shy folk, who do not easily get along with others and hide from people. If you know me in person, or even from my confessions on this blog, you wouldn't think that I'm an introvert at all. I'm not shy, I don't hide from people, nor do I really avoid social encounters. In fact, I'm out and about almost every evening of the week. I give lectures and seminars, I host workshops, and organize events.

Another definition for an introvert is somebody who recharges alone, away from other people. (Conversely, an extrovert gets his or her energy from being around other people.) Applying this definition, I'm very much an introvert.

I need time alone to find myself, to centre myself, to re-cooperate. And while I am not shy and actually like the company of other people, I definitely prefer smaller groups, one, two, three people, rather than hanging out with a crowd. I enjoy the intimacy of one-on-one encounters much more than the buzz of a big party.

Once a year I visit South Africa to catch up with family and friends. One of the most difficult things of this annual trip is that I seldom have time for myself. To get some alone time I would sometimes go take a shower or bath (again), just to be by myself for a while. Or I'd look forward to those hours at night when everybody has gone to bed and I can open a book, or just enjoy my private thoughts. It is not that I don't enjoy the time with my family and friends -- the annual trip is for this very purpose, to spend time with them; it is just that I need some time by myself too.


At the same time, like Charlie McDonnell, I like meeting people. I have surprisingly many great friends around the world. For instance tonight I met up with a friend from America (she returning to the States again in a few days), earlier this afternoon I had a conversation over Skype with a friend in Italy, and portions of yesterday I corresponded with at least three or four other friends.

One thing about introverts is that they often work quite well alone. Putting them in a group for "group work" is not necessarily the best use of their talents. I can do it, I get along with people pretty well, but working alone I tend to get more things done quicker, than navigating the politics of a group.

I guess that is why I also prefer lone sports rather than team sports. I like martial arts, mountain biking, parkour, and such activities. These activities are fundamentally lone activities. You may do them with other people, but you don't do them as a group; also your opponent (even in the martial arts) is ultimately yourself, rather than someone else. You compete against your own goals and limitations.

Considering that I'm a university lecturer, a martial art instructor, a Meetup-organizer, and many other things that causes me to be in constant interaction with other people, it indeed sounds strange that I would call myself an introvert (maybe I'm an ambivert). Yet, it is not that strange at all. While I enjoy these interactions with people, I'm all too happy to just come home and write a blog post instead.


morbidneko said...

i came to an interesting (to me) conclusion last night, on the eve of my 4th wedding anniversary.

When I was single, I hoped, prayed and yearned for someone I could be with and hang with. (I'm super clingy).

Now that I'm married and have 2 wonderful kids, the best gift my husband and I can give each other, the most appreciated gift, is: Time alone.

It's crazy, but it's true.

I'm one of those people who need time away to get my thoughts and self in order, or I go crazy. It also makes the time I *do* spend with my family that much more special.

Weird, huh? ^_^

Who needs diamonds and gold when you have a good book, or some canvas and paint?

Skryfblok said...

A good book and canvas and paint (or at least a sketchbook and a pencil) -- absolute necessities!